Monday, December 8, 2008

Yonezawa, Yamagata Onsen (Sunday, November 23, 2008)

Courtney’s English Conversation class friends planned a trip to Yamagata and allowed her to bring a friend!!  Lucky for me, that friend was me!!  They came to the mainland from Sado, and trained it up north to Yamagata Prefecture.  We all met up at Sakamachi station, and I only had a couple of minutes between trains.  Once on the train, I was informed that there was no bathroom.  No problem, I thought, I’ll just dehydrate myself so there is no problem. 

It’s always fun to see a new part of Japan.  This is a little country, but each region prides itself on its own unique food and scenery.  Yamagata is known for their soybeans, beef, wine, mountains, and hot springs.  The whole weekend, we were the stereotypical Japanese tourists, taking pictures of ANYTHING in front of EVERYTHING.  Assuming that our fellow Japanese travelers knew what they were doing, Courtney and I giggled and went with the flow.  Before getting to our hotel, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up basket loads of snacks and alcohol (which we had to sneak in, since they were against hotel rules).  We stayed at a ryokan, or Japanese style inn, where 8 of us shared a large tatami-mat room.  Upon arrival, a table was set in the middle of the middle of the room.  Some of us got into our onsen (hot spring) clothes, and we set off to the streets of Yonezawa.  The group tried some foot baths together (and by trying I mean dipping our feet in AND tasting!?!).  Some were hot, warm, salty, sulfur-y.  Eventually, the girls took a walk to another foot onsen, and the boys went back to the ryokan for the real deal.  We all met up for the huge and delicious Japanese dinner, featuring Yonezawa’s special soybeans, beef, and miso. 

After dinner, the girls hit up the onsen.  We dipped into both the indoor and outdoor hot springs multiple times, learning the phrase ‘gakuraku’ or ‘it feels like heaven.’  Everything was calm and relaxing while enjoying good conversation until that dehydration from the morning caught up to me.  I had to get out, NOW.  In the middle of a conversation, I impolitely, but still politely excused myself.  We had been in for quite a while so everyone followed.  I quickly rinsed myself off and went to the changing area where I started to see spots.  “Daijoubu?” (“Are you OK?”) Keiko asked.  “Daijoubu … janai” (“I’m OK … NOT”) I replied as the spots turned into darkness and both of my ears started to go deaf.  So of course, everyone semi-freaked out and was overly nice, trying to get me water and make me comfortable and help me not feel embarrassed.  “I just need a little bit of water” I kept on saying, still half blind and deaf.  “This has happened before, I just need to sit down … OK, is it cool if I lay down?”  So then I laid down (basically naked), and just when I thought I was going to be better, “I think … I think I’m getting paralyzed.”  The feeling in my fingers started to go as my hands clenched.  That’s when I knew I need a lot more than a little bit of water.  The more I drank, the better I felt, and within a couple of minutes, I was 100% again.  Phewf!!

When got back to the room, the futons were laid out for us, all pretty and in order.  We had to do a little shuffling around though, so that we could re-set up the table to play cards while eating and drinking our smuggled goods!!

The next morning, I awoke to EVERYONE up and staring at me.  “Oh My God!!”  It took a while for the shock to settle down, but I guess they all wanted to get going to another outdoor onsen, but were debating on whether or not to wake me up.  Well I was up, and within minutes out the door to another hot spring.  This one was AWESOME, as it was located between snow-covered mountains, and bubbling up HOT water.  When we got back to the ryokan, breakfast was served.  Oh how I LOVE Japanese breakfast J

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